Summit County’s elected officials try to balance goals against resources
Each year, Summit County Council members gather for an annual retreat to delve deeper into issues the county is currently facing, such as transportation and environmental stewardship.
Elected officials spend the day candidly discussing strategic objectives, budget concerns and projects to prioritize for the upcoming year.
However, Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said this year’s retreat was less about strategic priorities and more about the work that is being done to advance those objectives. The meeting was held earlier this month at the Utah Olympic Park. The 2030 Winter Olympics and a community compact for the Games were two of the major topics touched on at the retreat.
“The impetus for this year was some of the Council was concerned that perhaps the amount of work we were doing in the last couple of years prompted the requests for more resources and more people,” he said. “We wanted to get back to really analyzing that level of work and coming up with a reasonable amount of projects so we are not just continuously adding more stuff.”
The County Council approved 10 new employees as part of the 2019 budget to address the growing workloads within various departments, including transportation, sustainability and community development. The county is currently advertising for a new transportation planner to help Caroline Rodriguez, the county’s regional transportation planning director.
Some of the transportation projects that county officials are still committed to completing include upgrades at the Jeremy Ranch interchange, an infrastructure study for the eastern end of the county and a road connecting the Silver Creek neighborhood to Bitner Road.
Elected officials are exploring ways to advance the county’s ability to protect critical water sources, particularly the Weber River. Staff will be tasked with developing several projects that deal with protection of the watershed, especially around property development, Fisher said.
“It is kind of like balancing a checkbook,” he said. “There are a couple of other items on the Council’s list, like they want to discuss developing a project and concept to improve Old Ranch Road. But, they decided we would defer developing that project in favor of the water quality items.”
A portion of the Council’s discussion at the retreat focused on ways to tap other resources, such as the Park City Fire District, water districts and the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District, to further strategic objectives.
Summit County Councilors Glenn Wright and Doug Clyde have expressed an interest in improving the Wildland Urban Interface, which designates what areas are more susceptible to fires.
“We have experts in the community that deal with that on a regular basis,” Fisher said. “There is a lot of stuff that we deal with on just a day-to-day basis that we could assign to others.”
Fisher said County Council members will be drafting a 2019 work plan over the next week laying out the points that were made during the retreat. He would like it to be done by the end of February and become a regular part of the budget process.
“I think this was such a great discussion between the Council and the staff,” he said. “It was very honest, down to earth and we really discussed work compared to resources. Everyone participated and I think we all walked away with a better understanding of where everyone is coming from.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.